Software sales at risk with multiple core PCs

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Software prices could skyrocket to unaffordable levels for many users in coming years as computer hardware evolves to multiple core models, a Gartner analyst has claimed.

Software prices could skyrocket to unaffordable levels for many users in coming years as computer hardware evolves to multiple core models, a Gartner analyst has claimed.

Andy Butler, a UK-based analyst at Gartner Group, said the hardware industry was going to place yet more pressure on other sectors of IT as enterprises moved more towards realtime models for IT, such as utility computing and e-business on demand.

"It's getting obvious to all of us that the realtime enterprise is going to need a more adaptable set-up than we have today," he said.

Many software vendors produced software priced by CPU. Yet chip development was already becoming more complex in response to more sophisticated business needs. So changes in hardware would increasingly hit the software vendors, Butler said.

"It all makes it very, very hard for the software industry to come through with a fair and equitable model," he said.

Butler said processor makers such as Intel and AMD were already working on dual core designs for CPUs, he said, to help improve hardware performance beyond the physical restrictions imposed by the need to keep boxes cool, for example.

Yet customers -- particularly businesses -- were still demanding more performance and greater efficiency for an affordable price, he said.

"To solve the issues of heat generation and power consumption that has become a major issue over the last few years, it is becoming harder and harder for vendors to build robust systems," Butler said.

Multiple cores and multiple threads were increasingly being seen as one of the best ways to achieve improved hardware performance beyond today's levels. Gartner believed most manufacturers would be putting eight physical cores on one chip by 2007, he said.

"By the end of next year, everything will be dual core," Butler said. "If you are buying systems that have two CPUs on every single chip, you are doubling the number of CPUs and putting a huge amount of pressure on prices of any software product you buy priced by CPU."

Sun Microsystems had already vowed to put 32 cores on a single chip by the end of the decade, Butler added.

"We'll see software vendors really struggling to fairly price their products," he said.

Butler said standards would need to emerge that would enable software vendors to deliver for higher consumption. Users -- and the industry in general -- would have to put pressure on software vendors to stop the products becoming unaffordable.

"We will need to go to the software vendors and say, 'we do not expect you to double the prices of your software products just because we are doubling the number of CPUs'," Butler said.

Software and hardware industry leaders should work together to develop an answer for the problem that would solve it "once and for all", Butler said.

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